Printers to Obama: Please regulate our cleaning rags

The EPA released the proposal to revise the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations in 2003, but Jones said he has been talking to the agency since the '90s about streamlining state policies for the sector and giving them regulatory teeth.

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In the EPA’s 2006 regulatory agenda, the agency says the rule would affect 471,000 users of “industrial wipes,” and save the economy $34 million.

“We understand they wanted to get the rule done by the ‘end of summer’ last year,” Jones said he was told. “They wanted to get it done before the excitement of the election. ... That time has passed.”

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the EPA and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy sat in on the meeting, but according to protocol, couldn’t answer questions or give any details on the final draft’s progress.

Marci Kinter attended from the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, according to federal records.

The industry says it isn’t aware of any controversy surrounding the rule. Any objection environmental groups had with the EPA’s environmental impact assessment was rectified, Jones said, when the agency re-did its analysis in 2009.

Members of the Printing Industries of America, which are often large commercial printers, use reusable rags that must be dried of all chemicals before being transported off-site for washing, Jones said.

He said the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association members largely use disposable wipes, because they work most often with digital screens. While those are wet with solvent, they are considered hazardous waste. After they dry, they just become waste and can be incinerated or thrown away.

The national regulations deal with how exactly to drain both types of rags of cleaning chemicals, and what to do with the disposable ones after that.

OIRA, the White House’s regulations gateway, received the rules on April 23, 2012. Laws stipulate that the agency then has 90 days to review the drafts before returning them to agencies for correction or publication; however, 79 of the 153 pending rules and proposals have gone past that 90-day deadline.

“I think there are a lot of people frustrated with the process,” Jones said. “Our goal [for the meeting] was we wanted to see them get the rule out the door. I don't know if this did anything, I guess we'll have to wait and see.”